EU actions in the electronic communications field has led to greater consumer choice, falling phone bills and higher standards of service. The main laws and actions related to electronic communications are:
- a sound regulatory framework for electronic communications, promoting competition and consumer rights
- the European Electronic Communications Code
- the BEREC regulation
- promoting investment in broadband networks to turn Europe into a gigabit society
- supporting wireless technologies, such as 5G and LTE, through the radio spectrum policy programme
- protecting mobile users from high roaming charges when travelling in the EU
- introducing a price cap for intra-EU communications
- taking a leading role in international discussions on Internet development and governance
The European Electronic Communications Code Directive's main provisions are:
- clear rules: the same rules will apply all over Europe;
- higher quality of services: the Code will foster competition for investments, in particular in very high capacity networks such as 5G networks, meaning higher connection speeds and better coverage;
- consumer protection: the Code will benefit and protect consumers, irrespective of whether end-users communicate through traditional means such as calls and SMS, or web-based services;
- equality of treatment of all players in the telecom services sector: whether traditional or web-based, the Code will clarify the definition of electronic communication services.
Key Directives and Regulations
- The Framework Directive is based on the Framework Directive 2002/21/EC and the Better Regulation Directive 2009/140/EC.
- The Access Directive is based on the Access Directive 2002/19/EC and the Better Regulation Directive 2009/140/EC.
- The Authorisation Directive is based on the Authorisation Directive 2002/20/EC and the Better Regulation Directive 2009/140/EC.
- The Universal Service Directive is based on the Universal Service Directive 2002/22/EC and the Citizens' Rights Directive 2009/136/EC.
- The Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications is based on the Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications 2002/58/EC, the Amending Directive 2006/24/EC and the Citizens' Rights Directive 2009/136/EC.
- The European Electronic Communications Code.
- The BEREC Regulation.
- The Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications is based on the Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications 2002/58/EC, and the Citizens' Rights Directive 2009/136/EC.
- The Regulation on roaming on public mobile communications networks
The telecoms market is not always sufficient to generate growth, protect consumers and ensure a level playing field for new companies in the telecoms sector.
The European Commission regulates the market in order to counterbalance the significant market power of former monopolies, to ensure universal service and to protect consumers.
The Commission's aim is to contribute to the timely and consistent implementation of the telecoms rules by:
- monitoring and reporting on implementation in the Member States;
- launching infringement proceedings against Member States which do not respect telecoms rules;
- carrying out community consultation procedures through the Article 7 procedure;
- supporting the work of the Communications Committee which brings together Member States’ officials to coordinate the implementation of the telecoms rules;
- cooperation with Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) which assists the Commission and the national regulatory authorities (NRAs) in the implementation of the EU telecoms rules;
- organising seminars for national judges focusing on various aspects of telecoms regulation.
The Commission has the power to launch infringement proceedings against any Member State that fails to comply with EU telecoms laws and regulations. If necessary, the Commission may refer the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union. In the majority of infringement cases, Member States comply with their obligations under EU law before they are referred to the Court.
Any person or organisation may send a complaint to the European Commission against a Member State they consider to have taken measures incompatible with EU law. The Commission first tries to solve the issue with a Member State bilaterally. If the problem is not solved, the Commission can decide to open infringement proceedings.
For non-conformity issues, the infringement proceedings consist of the following steps:
- A "Letter of Formal Notice" to the Member State concerned, which must generally be answered within two months.
- If the Commission is not satisfied with the response given by the Member State, the Commission can send a formal request to comply with EU Law (a "Reasoned Opinion"), calling on the Member State to inform the Commission of the measures taken to comply with the rules within two months.
- If a Member State fails to ensure compliance with EU law, the Commission may then decide to refer the Member State to the Court of Justice following Article 258 TFEU. The Court of Justice will then issue a judgment.
- If, despite the Court's judgment, a Member State still fails to act in order to comply with the judgement, the Commission may open a further infringement case with only one written warning before referring the Member State back to Court under Article 260 TFEU.
- If the Commission refers a Member State to Court for a second time it may propose financial penalties on the Member State concerned based on the duration and severity of the infringement and the Member State’s ability to pay (both lump sum depending on the time elapsed since the original Court ruling and a daily penalty payment for each day after a second ruling until the infringement ends).
Under article 260(3) TFEU, when a Member State fails to inform the European Commission of the new legislation transposing a directive, financial penalties are proposed with the first referral to Court.
Judgments of the Court are binding on all EU Member States as well as on the EU institutions themselves.
The Secretariat General, which coordinates the Commission's work on the application of Community law, provides general details on infringement proceedings.
- Overview of infringement procedures opened for non-communication of the 2009 revised telecoms rules (.pdf)
- Overview of infringement procedures opened for incorrect implementation of the Regulatory Framework (.pdf)
- Guide to Case Law of the European Court of Justice in the field of telecommunications 2010
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